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Simon Ingram-Hill |

British Council for the Mutual Benefit of Hungary and the UK

"All our current programs and projects, such as Active Citizen, Rivers of the World, Challenge Europe, aim to contribute to social change and to make this world a better place to live,” director Simon Ingram-Hill says.

The British Council is registered as a charity in the UK. The organization receives a grant from the British government and earns income from teaching and other client-centred activity. It has 7,500 staff in offices, teaching centers, libraries and information and resource centers in 233 towns and cities in 109 countries and territories worldwide. “Our purpose is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas, achievements, education and English language,” director of the Budapest office, Simon Ingram-Hill told Diplomacy and Trade. “Our approach is non-political; we present an impartial picture of the UK. We
work hand-in-hand with ministries, professional associations, universities, schools, NGOs and a number of Hungarian cultural and art institutions such as Budapest’s Trafo theatre and MR2 Petofi Radio which broadcasts a radio show "Selector" every Saturday featuring the best of contemporary UK popular music ,” the director adds. According to him, British Council uses arts as a soft tool to address social issues and reach large numbers of people through exhibitions, concerts and theatre.

Engaging programs

“In Hungary, since 2007, we focus our work through programs involving a number of partners both in and outside Budapest and operating across national borders, covering education and intercultural dialogue, English language learning and teaching, the arts and climate change,” the director continues. “Many of our projects involve Hungarians collaborating with UK contemporaries, with results that are exciting both for Hungary, and for international understanding.” According to Ingram-Hill, one of these projects, Creative Cities has been particularly successful. Running until the beginning of 2011 under the motto ‘Make your city a better place to live’ this project features three core projects: Future City Game, Urban Ideas Bakery and Urban Forum. “We are proud that an immense number of practical solutions and innovative ideas were born during the workshops and conferences, on how to improve the quality of life in our bustling cities and on the role that creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation play in urban development. All our current programs and projects, such as Active Citizen, Rivers of the World, Challenge Europe, aim to contribute
to social change and to make this world a better place to live,” Ingram-Hill says. “British Council believes that an Equal Opportunity Policy helps to ensure that there is no unjustified discrimination in the recruitment, retention, training and development of staff,” he notes. This reflects the British Council's philosophy on Equal opportunity and Diversity across all its programs as well as its corporate values towards its own staff. “We are committed to equality of opportunity and inclusion, and to positive action to promote this,” the director says. “Just recently we launched another project, ‘Connecting Classrooms’ in Hungary.” This project builds lasting partnerships between groups of schools in the UK and in over 60 countries around the world, developing understanding and trust between young people in different societies, creating a safer and more connected world for the future. According to the director, British Council has spent more than GBP 3.5 million on raising awareness of climate change in the last few years. An outcome of this project in Hungary is the establishment of Climate Offices the first in March 2009 at the University of Godollo. “We have already agreed with 6 universities to create a network of Climate Ofices across the country.”

New generation

“Our work in support of English language teachers and English language learning; one extremely popular course we are running at the moment ‘Learn English Family’ co-opts parents in the language learning of their children,” Ingram-Hill notes. By holding classes in
such places as the Budapest Zoo, British Council Budapest places the learning process at the heart of an environment that the children find naturally stimulating. “British Council brings in the strengths of digitalization into much that it does,” the director says. “We offer online English language learning tools for millions across the world, we build professional networks of our project participants and we offer social networking for the fans of British culture,” he adds. “Our latest developments include the British Council’s own English language applications for mobiles which provide an entertaining way of practising the language.

The British Council, which had opened an office in Budapest after WWII, was expelled in 1950 but was allowed to re-enter Hungary in 1963 under a cultural agreement renewable every three years. The Council operated as part of the Embassy until, in 1987, a revision of the agreement allowed it to function in its own right and name. In the 90's it was highly effective in supporting the new Hungary with its Arts programs, and especially for its support of the expansion of the English language. The Council helped to establish a center for English language teacher training in ELTE and the International Association for Teaching of English as a Foreign Languages, and through its network if teaching resource centers throughout the country. Now these resources are available through partnerships with city libraries. The Council moved to its present site in Madach Street in 2008.

Réka Alíz Francisck

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